The carcinogens in third hand smoke

February 3, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

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It is an undeniable fact based on irrevocable evidence. Cigarette smoke is bad for our health and can cause cancer. Cigarette smoke contains more than 4000 chemicals, and 250 of these are poisonous gases and other toxic chemicals, according to this New York Times article. According to Cancer Research UK, cigarette smoke contains at least 69 carcinogens. Some of these are listed below.

Remember Polonium 210? It was the radioactive material used in the well-publicized 2006 murder of the Russian ex-spy Alexander V. Litvinenko.

Now, we know the hazards of first and second hand smoking. But here’s something newly recognized – and just as dangerous – third hand smoke.

So what’ third hand smoke?

According to this study recently published in the journal Pediatrics, “third hand smoke is residual tobacco smoke contamination that remains after the cigarette is extinguished.

It seems that long after smoking is finished, long after the cigarette butt has been thrown away, the toxic substances in the cigarette smoke persist and stay, sticking to your clothes, hair, the furniture, the curtains, the carpet, the car upholstery. This means that by simply taking away the smokers and opening the windows does not make a room “smoke-free.”

In these days where smoke-free legislations have become widespread in developed countries, there are concerns about the possible increase of smoking in the privacy of the home, thus creating an environment full of second and third hand smoke. Unfortunately, the people most highly susceptible to toxic substances in the cigarette smoke are children. A little baby in its smoker mother’s arms, the little one crawling on the carpet, the toddler hiding behind the curtain or the school-aged child in the back seat of the car. They are exposed to the abovelisted carcinogens even if Mom or Dad never smokes in their presence through third hand smoke. This is why there is now a discussion going on about banning smoking at home.

This survey polled people’s opinion on third hand smoke and home smoking bans. A large majority of people, non-smokers as well as smokers are well aware of the hazards of third hand smoke. However, as expected, it is easy for the non-smokers to say “yes” to home-smoking ban than the smokers.

Nicotine addiction is a very hard habit to kick and I’m sure many smoking parents are doing their best to protect their children from the hazards of cigarette smoke. Unfortunately, short of quitting, they can’t really get rid of the threat of cigarette smoke.

I am all for home-smoking ban but this should be coupled with educational drives and smoking cessation help and support. In marginalizing smoking parents, we are also marginalizing their children.

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